Sunday, June 9, 2019

Review: The Ash Family

The Ash Family The Ash Family by Molly Dektar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Berie is supposed to be heading to college but gets sidetracked by a cultish commune in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside Asheville. I read this for the setting since I live an hour south of Asheville and have driven around tiny mountain towns with lots of nooks and crannies, even stumbled on what looked like a commune outside Gerton at one point. There are a lot of culty tropes here - the powerful man who breaks the rules others have to follow, people who seem to know secrets that are never revealed, people who disappear, hard labor and hunger used as control. It's a bit of a twist because the core members take environmental "action" that end up being quite more than peaceful protests, creating a somewhat ominous backdrop to Berie/Harmony's understanding of what it is all about.

What I love about this book, and what to me sets it apart from other cult/commune novels, is how the author captures the internal emotional turmoil of someone who is being brainwashed. It's astounding and unnerving and kept me reading to the end.

This came out April 9 and I had a copy from the publisher through netgalley.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Reading Envy 156: Introvert Intentions with Scott

Jenny and Scott chat books they've read and liked lately, from travelogues to medical/cultural miscommunication, from introvert tales to science fiction short stories that are really more about philosophy than anything else. You'll have to excuse them as they nerd out over journaling and planners for a while (and Jenny deleted half that conversation, so you don't even know!)

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 156: Introvert Intentions with Scott

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Books discussed:



Exhalation by Ted Chiang
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon
Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come by Jessica Pan
The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll
Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap


Other mentions:

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Game of Thrones (tv show)
Arrival (film)
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
Gardner Dezois
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel
This is Paradise by Kristiana Khakauwila
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
Carrying the Fire by Michael Collins
Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Chronicles of a Radical Hag by Lorna Landvik


Related Episodes:

Episode 004 - Home, Frightening and Banned with guest Karen Acosta
Episode 014 - Flannery O'Connor with Zombies with Jason and Scott
Episode 052 - The Man with the Eyebrows with Philip and Scott
Episode 058 - Wishing for a Sequel with Scott
Episode 071 - Bad Priest, Good Priest, No Priest with Scott
Episode 082 - Reading Envy Envy with Scott
Episode 109 - Stuxnet Pancakes with Scott Danielson

Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Scott on A Good Story is Hard to Find (podcast)

Friday, May 31, 2019

Books Read May 2019: 118-133


Pictured: 5 star reads, and yes that's ironic. Or fitting.

This month was a strange reading month, where I DNF'd 6 books that I'd had over my head (most of them ARCs, one library book) and stalling my reading in other ways for too long. And even some of the books I finished were disappointing, lackluster at times. I only read 16 total, but the two I gave five stars were books I read slowly along with people. Hmm, there may be something to that

118. The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman *** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
119. Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton **** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
120. Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap **** (personal copy; my review)
121. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker **** (library copy; my review)
122. Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid **** (personal copy audiobook; my review)
123. Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson *** (library copy; my review)
124. Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come by Jessica Pan **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
125. The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel ** (RB Digital audiobook (library); my review)
126. Naamah by Sarah Blake *** (library copy; my review)
127. Shut Up, You're Pretty by Téa Mutonji **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
128. Chronicles of a Radical Hag by Lorna Landvik *** (library copy; my review)
129. What My Mother and I Don't Talk About edited by Michelle Filgate **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
130. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo ***** (library copy; my review)
131. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell ***** (personal copy; my review)
132. The Bride Test by Helen Hoang **** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
133. Biloxi by Mary Miller *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)

Books read: 16
DNF (not included in this list): 6

Print: 7
eBook: 7
Audio: 2

Personal copy: 3
Library copy: 6
Review copy: 7

Asia 2019 project: 1
Readalong or group reads: 2
Tournament of Books Summer Camp: 1

Review: Biloxi

Biloxi Biloxi by Mary Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Biloxi is about 62 year old Louis, who is trying to figure out how to live after his wife left, his father died, and he "retires" from his job.

Louis reminds me of Ignatius J. Reilly (A Confederacy of Dunces) if suddenly left to his own devices as an older man, but not in a funny way. He doesn't really know who he is without his roles with other people, he doesn't know how to take care of himself (but then gets a dog,) and he does a lot of things out habit that he doesn't even enjoy (watching Fox News seems to be one of these things.) This is probably a pretty realistic depiction of aging these days.

I would have liked the perspectives of the other characters because they are obviously seeing that he needs looking after. I didn't find it to feel particularly southern the way it is described, maybe just not big city.

I'm trying to catch up on my eARC backlog. This came out May 21 from LiveRight.

View all my reviews

Review: The Bride Test

The Bride Test The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This romance novel was good timing for May during Asian and Pacific Islanders Month - the author note at the end explains that part of her inspiration for Esme comes from her mother's story as a Vietnamese refugee, and not knowing much about it because she worked all the time. The author also shares her own impulse to feature a white character but Esme demanded to be more central.

So this is a good example of what is happening in contemporary romance - one character with Autism (who has to teach his love interest how to touch him because he's very sensitive to light touches,) one character who is an immigrant (although the whole fairy godmother element is a bit far fetched to say the least), men teaching each other how to please a woman, etc. .
This is in the same universe as The Kiss Quotient (those characters even show up at one point) but you don't need to have read it to understand this one.

I received a copy of this from Berkley through netgalley - this book came out May 7 and I already saw the audiobook in hoopla.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Reading Envy 155: Music Reading Recommendations with Thomas

Thomas and Jenny huddle up in the music nerd corner of the pub, trading recommendations for books that include music in all the best ways. We start out with a few non-fiction titles then move into novels. You'll also hear about an epic list of books including music, and a few books that didn't do as well as would have liked.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 155: Music Reading Recommendations

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Books discussed:

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart
The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross
The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Chimes by Anna Smaill
Chamber Music by Doris Grumbach
An Equal Music by Vikram Seth
Us Conductors by Sean Matthews
The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
The Baritone wore Chiffon by Mark Schweizer
The Student Conductor by Robert Ford
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty
Orfeo by Richard Powers
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West
Mapp and Lucia by E.F. Benson
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Pastoral by Andre Alexis
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
White Tears by Hari Kunzru

Books Jenny meant to mention:
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper
The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe


Other mentions:
Bibliography of musical fiction
A Late Quartet (film)
On Chesil Beach (film)
On Chesil Beach (soundtrack) 
The Ensemble by Aja Gabel
Compass by Mathias Enard
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby


Related Episodes:

Episode 012 - Some Bookers and Some Madness (Orfeo)
Episode 025 - Mule and Plow with guest Jason Roland (Us Conductors)
Episode 044 - Of Survival and Memory with Luke Burrage (The Chimes)
Episode 072 - Books Are My Bag with Sarah K (Do Not Say We Have Nothing)
Episode 085 - An Acquired Taste with Thomas Otto
Episode 086 - The Queen of Bailing with Shawn Mooney (The Gustav Sonata)
Episode 110 - The Accidental Love Episode with Casey Stepaniuk (White Tears)
Episode 144 - For the Fans with Thomas of Hogglestock


Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Thomas on Twitter
Thomas at his blog, hogglestock

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Reading Envy 154: Is If If with Paula

Jenny and Paula discuss what might be lost in translation, and navigate different accents and time zones to chat books. Paula brings one book that was perfect for the date we recorded - ANZAC Day! And Jenny brings one she read after a listener submitted it as one of their favorite reads of 2018.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 154: Is If If with Paula

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner
Or subscribe via Apple Podcasts by clicking: Subscribe
Or listen through TuneIn
Or listen on Google Play
Listen via Stitcher
Listen through Spotify



Books discussed:

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells
Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet
Tu by Patricia Grace
Bright by Duanwad Pimwana, translated by Mui Poopoksakul
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza


Other mentions:

Becky Chambers
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Two Lines Press
Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap
The Sad Part Was by Prabda Yoon
Tilted Axis Press
Cairo Trilogy
Salman Rushdie
Karnak Cafe by Naguib Mahfouz
The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud
Wounds (film(
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

Related Episodes:

Episode 041 - Grotesque Beauty with Nathan Ballingrud
Episode 119 - Bread and Butter Writing with Paula
Episode 139 - Stocking Stuffer (Best Reads of 2018)


Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Paula is @centique on Litsy